Love Your Liver

This hard-working organ operates behind the scenes to keep you healthy without asking much in return. Learn how a little TLC can ensure your liver loves you back for the long term.

Photo: Rob Fiocca

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The world’s best filters aren’t in a photo app on your smartphone, nor are they inside your Brita water pitcher or located at your city’s waste treatment center. No, the highest-tech, hardest-working filtering system on the planet is actually inside of you – and you can’t live without it.

Your liver is your favorite organ you never paid much attention to. It’s working dutifully and quietly behind the scenes to filter your blood, digest nutrients and remove harmful toxins from your entire body. And it does all of this without asking much in return.

Everything you consume – food, alcohol, medicine and toxins – must pass through the liver, a football-size organ and the Grand Central Station of digestion. Acting like an advanced switchboard, your liver determines whether to metabolize nutrients on the spot, store them and release them into the blood later as needed, or politely usher toxins out through urine or stools.

Since your liver will do all it can on its own to keep you healthy, well nourished and detoxified, it’s easy to take this important organ for granted. But the liver can wear down over time if the system is abused. Chronic overconsumption of alcohol, a poor diet and an influx of medications or other drugs put a strain on the liver. Over time, these actions can cause the tissue of the liver to become inflamed or scarred, making it harder for the liver to do its job. Many people do take their liver health for granted, and diseases of the liver, whether inherited or acquired, are common.

The liver can become infected by viruses or parasites resulting in serious conditions like hepatitis A, B or C. An autoimmune condition where the immune system attacks the liver can result in conditions like autoimmune hepatitis or primary biliary cholangitis. And, though rare, abnormal inherited genes can result in genetic liver complications, such as Wilson’s disease or hemochromatosis.

But the most common liver condition by far is fatty liver disease, of which there are two types. Firstly, alcoholic liver disease is a result of overconsumption of alcohol. Secondly, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease occurs in people who aren’t heavy drinkers but get a buildup of fatty deposits in the cells of their liver. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the most common chronic liver disease among people in developed countries. In fact, one in three adults and one in 10 children in the United States have it.

While the exact cause of NAFLD is unknown, nearly all people who acquire it have one or more of the following risk factors:

  • Obesity with a high amount of abdominal fat
  • High blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes
  • Postmenopausal women
  • Of Hispanic or Asian descent
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Metabolic syndrome

No matter what kinds of liver concerns you’re hoping to prevent, we have recipes that can help. These dishes feature ingredients that’ll feed a healthy liver, offering potential benefits like the prevention or reduction of liver fat, lower inflammation and a lower risk for conditions like fatty liver disease.

The recipes

Mediterranean Baked Salmon & Vegetables

Roasted salmon and vegetables
(Photo: Rob Fiocca)

Piled-High Roasted Garlic & Greens Soup

Roasted garlic and greens soup
(Photo: Rob Fiocca)

Eggplant Grain “Bowls”

Eggplant grain bowls
(Photo: Rob Fiocca)

Grain-Free Matcha-Lemon Marble Bread

Matcha lemon bread with glaze
(Photo: Rob Fiocca)

Warm Brussels Sprouts & Black Rice Salad with Miso Dressing

Brussels sprouts and black rice salad
(Photo: Rob Fiocca)

Show Your Liver Some Love: A Clean Eating Webinar

Join Clean Eating dietitians Tiffani Bachus and Erin Macdonald for an exclusive webinar all about liver health and wellness.